Syracuse, New York, is a landscape of concrete and asphalt, with little to break up the parking lots and warehouses – but there, looming above it all, is the Center of Excellence. Its bevelled block projects like a glass prow, balancing on narraw columns, above the recessed ground floor. A wide ramp on the south side zigs up to the second storey, flares out over the first storey under a green rooftop, then zags up to the third storey.
A large and very visible symbol of the city’s goals, the project bridges the gap between the downtown core and the university campus, anchoring what will eventually develop into a great connective corridor. Of course, it also makes a bold statement befitting the Center’s future-thinking goals.
Housing 5,110 square metres of lab and classroom space, and owned by Syracuse University, the Center of Excellence and will be used by researchers from over 200 companies to address issues of Total Indoor Environmental Quality (TIEQ). Project architect Joshua Uhl explains that this unique function played a pivotal role in the building’s plans. The “dry labs” had to offer fully customizable use of different climate and lighting options, while still remaining true to their initial green goals. The resulting lab space offers researchers a chance to test office productivity against independently variable acoustics, lighting, humidity, heating and cooling.
The structure’s green innovations provide these amenities with low environmental impact. To cut electricity use, a narrow building profile maximizes the penetration of daylight; windows employ glazing and automated microblinds to reduce glare; and lighting is activated by sensors in response to need. Rainwater reclamation supplies all toilets and the irrigation of the green roof. Radiant heating and cooling, natural ventilation and a geothermal borefield of 49 wells reduce the climate control’s demand on the grid. Rapidly renewable materials were used wherever possible, including in the insulation. Even its site – formerly a brownfield contaminated with chromium, oil, and asbestos – has been renewed to represent the revitalization of an entire neighbourhood, a dash of green in an area once in danger of falling off the map.